Many executives and leaders have been skeptical about this concept of virtual work for years. Are employees simply taking advantage of a company’s generosity? Is there a way to monitor productivity? Is there really any cost savings of having employees work remotely? What is the impact on the environment?
While each of these questions is legitimate, as employees work remotely in greater numbers, management is beginning to see the advantages of virtual work if the challenges can be overcome.
Sebastian Bailey, contributing author for Forbes.com, shares his viewpoint on how killers of virtual work can, in fact, be turned around to save money, offer flexibility that employees crave, and be beneficial for the environment.
- Social interaction. Although the office banter is obviously non-existent, leaders can create the same social interaction among team members fostering a sense of connectivity and motivation. Regular communication and team building are essential to help employees understand how they fit into the big picture. Employees should be encouraged to share their personal lives, weekend plans, and progress on the job to establish relationships that are otherwise missing without this type of interaction.
- Face-to-face communication is essential to hamper feelings of isolation and a lack of connection. Employees who feel isolated are less likely to be productive and may lack motivation and creativity. Non-verbal communication as displayed through body language is just as important as the quantity of email and phone calls. Leaders should encourage as much visual communication through video conferencing as possible so that team members learn to read cues and culture innuendos where possible.
- When virtual teams span across the globe, the cultural norms and expectations become blurred and misinterpretations can easily occur. It is important to identify and establish ground rules and expectations for virtual team members to ensure the best and most appropriate communication and team-building efforts. Diversity is very beneficial and while trying to bring teams together, it is important to also recognize the many amazing qualities and creativity that stems from people from varying countries come together.
- Time zones can cause a lack of visibility when teams are trying to communicate and work effectively together. When employees do not see that others are working at the same time, it creates a sense of mistrust among co-workers. Leaders should encourage all members to believe in others’ competency by showcasing achievements and communicating activities, progress, and availability.
- Teams struggle to work cohesively when they are separated by possibly thousands of miles, oceans, and continents. When each team member takes responsibility, is held accountable, and is provided with clear direction, studies have shown that cohesion and inclusion amongst the team are more likely to occur. Rather than each feeling as if they are working in isolation, leaders must express how each team member’s participation is relevant and connected toward achieving a specific goal.
Virtual teams no longer have to be looked on as inefficient and ineffective. By implementing these operations and best practices, leaders can ensure that organizations reap all of the many benefits of virtual work including effective, productive teams, reduced costs, and of course, environmental sensitivity. Managing a virtual team may not necessarily be easy but as it is becoming more the cultural norm in organizations around the world, it now more than ever a necessity for managers to understand those things that kill virtual work and how to beat them.